Sublimation Printing VS DTG Printing(Direct to Garment)

In this article, we will delve into the world of print technology, specifically focusing on two core methods – Direct to Garment (DTG) and Sublimation. With an easy-to-follow style, we’ll compare these techniques, their benefits, capabilities, and drawbacks. Whether you’re a print enthusiast or looking to start your own printing business, this exploration will help you understand which method may suit your needs best

DTG Printing

Printing method difference

The sublimation printing process is an inkjet printer printed on thermal transfer paper, which is a special paper with a coating that better fastness the ink to the transfer object, transferring the dye to different objects, such as plastic products, metal products, paper, fabrics and so on by heat. “Sublimation” is when dyes change from a solid to a gas, skipping the liquid phase. It’s like ice directly turning into steam without becoming water first..

DTG is a method of printing where the image is directly sprayed onto the shirt and then cured with heat. This “prints” the design directly onto the fabric, similar to how a paper printer works


Printing Ink Difference

Sublimation ink is a dye-based ink that, via heat, changes from a solid state to a gas, impregnating polyester materials or coated surfaces like ceramics. 

This process results in vibrant, durable prints that resist cracking, fading, or peeling. However, it works properly only on light-colored polyester fabrics or specially treated surfaces; on cotton or other natural materials, the colors may appear dull or invisible.

Direct-to-garment (DTG) printing uses water-based pigment ink, absorbed by fabric fibers, particularly cotton. to create designs that feel integral to the garment. it’s especially effective on dark cotton. However, despite its high-resolution, versatile color output, its durability is lower than sublimation, fading over time and with washing.

Further, Sublimation inks normally use CMYK 4color inks. while DTG pigment ink, the ink color of CMYK+ White inks. both method has fluorescent ink options as long as the head arrangement support.

Fabric Type Difference(Fabric Compatibility)

rolls of customizable fabric on shelves

Sublimation printing is typically utilized on high-polyester or entirely polyester fabrics, and works best on white variations to make the colors of the ink stand out prominently. However, this method falls short in producing vibrant colors on darker garments due to its limited color range. 

On the other hand, Direct-to-Garment (DTG) printing is designed for fabrics with high cotton content, including entirely cotton-made items. What sets DTG apart is its ability to use white ink, which enables the printing on darker fabrics, extending its versatility over a wide array of garments and colors.


Process Difference

sublimation process

Sublimation printing and direct-to-garment (DTG) printing are two distinct methods of printing on fabric. Sublimation involves printing onto sublimation paper, then using heat to transfer the design to the fabric. Conversely, DTG employs a two-step process: first, the garment is pretreated and the treating solution is dried; next, the design is directly printed onto the fabric using a DTG printer. This printed fabric is then heat-pressed or treated using a belt dryer. While both techniques involve heat process(one is heat transfer, and another is heat press), the key difference lies in whether the image is printed directly onto the fabric (DTG) or transferred from paper (sublimation).

Printing Equipments Difference. 

Sublimation Printing:

Sublimation printers vary based on size and capacity. They could be smaller desktop types, like an Epson printer, or broader format printers designed for substantial workloads. The heating process utilized in sublimation printing features machinery of varying scales; these can be compact A3 format heat press machines or more substantial, industrial-level rotary heater machines. The fabric used in the process can either be in cut pieces or uncut, rolled formats.

DTG Printing:

DTG, or Direct-to-Garment Printing, starts with a pretreatment step, which can be administered with a spray gun or a specialized apparatus like a ‘Cube’ pretreatment machine. DTG printers come in various configurations, including single plate, double roller, or even machines capable of managing three plates concurrently. There are also innovative hybrids merging DTG with traditional screen printing that operate on more than ten plates. The heating process in DTG printing can be managed with a heat press machine or a custom-length belt dryer, tailored specifically for production requirements.


Printing Quality and Longevity Difference

Sublimation printing offers bright, enduring results, while Direct-to-Garment (DTG) prints might gradually fade with wear and multiple washes


Application Difference 

sublimation application

Sublimation technology is often applied to roll fabrics and cut pieces, offering possibilities for full seamless or partial printing. In addition, sublimation extends beyond fabrics to rigid products like mugs and bottles, though this demands special equipment and materials. On the other hand, DTG (direct-to-garment) is primarily employed for textiles such as t-shirts, hoodies, jeans, and even leather products. However, due to the limits of the printing plate size, DTG is commonly used for specific areas on garments. Both printing techniques have distinct applications, thus broadening the scope of product customization.


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